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Metal Monday: 2011 Metal Christmas List

Christmas: a time in which little boys and girls ask ol’ Saint Nick to fulfill their wildest desires. Thankfully for Santa Claus, kids don’t really wish for that many outlandish things. Metalheads, however, have some pretty crazy wants. Even though Santa might not be real, we’re going to make ourselves a metal Christmas wish-list, just in case. Better safe than sorry, right?  Here’s what we want:

1. We want Wintersun to finally finish Time. Even if you’re not completely stoked about Wintersun, won’t it be nice to finally get rid of the “Wintersun never releasing Time” joke? We think so. Even if it turns out to be another Chinese Democracy, at least we’ll be done with it.

2. We want Metallica to just stop. We love the band and all, but they just aren’t what they used to be. St. Anger was an atrocity, Death Magnetic was better but not great, and Lulu was just painful (even if we sort of gave our thumbs up to them recording with Lou Reed). Just recently they released a B-sides EP from the Death Magnetic material, and it provides almost no hope.

Yeah, same guy who sang "Welcome To The Jungle"

3. We want Axl Rose to continue being a hilarious wreck. It’s sort of a cruel thing to wish for, but it’s just too entertaining seeing more and more clips of Axl Rose totally blowing it on stage. He’s probably still making bank, so what does he care?

4. We want Black Sabbath’s reunion to not suck. In the wake of Dio’s unfortunate passing (RIP), Ozzy and Sabbath have made plans to get back together and play some shows as well as record a new album. I know a lot of people are very cautiously optimistic about this. It’s no secret that Ozzy is a former shell of himself and the entire Sabbath crew is starting to really get up there in age… but it’s the original lineup! Count us in, since this is likely the last shot to see these legends play together. We just don’t want it to be really bad.

Continue reading ‘Metal Monday: 2011 Metal Christmas List’

Metal Monday: Solerrain Takes You To A Brutal Lonely Place

If you’re a regular reader of Metal Mondays here at OurStage, you might remember a feature I wrote called “From Russia With Metal” about the band Illidiance. It would appear that Illidiance isn’t the only OurStage metal band from Russia cranking out killer metal tunes. Solerrain, hailing from St. Petersburg, is another metal band from Russia ready to melt your face.

Solerrain play a style of metal that’s not been utilized by many bands in recent years: extreme power metal. Since Wintersun still hasn’t released Time, Children of Bodom peaked a bunch of years ago and Norther has been consistently mediocre on their last few albums, someone’s got to pick up the slack (don’t worry, Kalmah and Ensiferum are still going strong). Sure seems like Solerrain would be an obvious fit for this role as they’re still pretty new on the scene, and they bring it fast and hard. In fact, Solerrain don’t seem to know the meaning of the word moderation, as every song they’ve got on OurStage is full-throttle at every moment.

Blood and facepaint = totally metal

As a metal band, you can’t really play at light speed tempos unless you’re masterfully proficient at your instruments, and that’s something that Solerrain have in full. Every note and slightest nuance in every guitar line is perfectly executed, every keystroke by the keyboardist is precise and every syllable of every word is delivered with force. If you’re looking for a lack of musical proficiency here, you’ll not find it.

A bit remarkably, Solerrain recorded two separate versions of their album Fighting The Illusions—one in English, one in Russian—to both appeal to their homeland and to countries around the world. They also have a penchant for covering pop songs that haven’t been relevant since the early 2000s (like Crazytown’s “Butterfly” for example). You can check out a few songs from the English version of Fighting The Illusions below. Prepare to have your face melted:

Metal Monday: Blackguard Q&A

If you’ve been to a few metal shows in the past year, there’s a fair chance that you’ve seen Blackguard, if not on purpose then by accident. Since the band’s release of Profugus Mortis in 2009, they’ve toured on a near constant basis—with close to ten tours supporting bands that range from Epica to Necrophagist and all sorts of bands in between. Paul “Ablaze” Zinay, the band’s vocalist took some time out of the band’s rigorous schedule to answer a few questions for us regarding touring and the new record, Firefight:

OS: You’re known as a band that tours incessantly, when did you find time between tours to record Firefight?

PZ: Mostly on the road and the small break we had after the Hypocrisy tour. It’s been tough but Kim (guitar) has a work ethic that puts most people to shame. The man busted his to get this done.

OS: Given that you tour a lot, you have to like it, but what would you say is your favorite part of touring?

PZ: I love playing shows plain and simple. There’s nothing like being on stage, playing the music you love for people who love to hear it.

OS: With the number of tours you’ve done, you’ve toured with a lot of bands. Which bands that you’ve toured with have been the most special?

PZ: The Nevermore tour will always hold a very special place in my black heart [laughs]. Not just them but everyone on that tour (Warbringer, Hatesphere). There was such a good vibe on that tour, it didn’t matter that most of the shows were shit for us.

OS: Are there any bands you’ve really wanted to tour with but haven’t had the opportunity?

PZ: Sure. I’d love to tour with some of the really big bands like Dimmu [Borgir], Cradle Of Filth, Children of Bodom, ect. just to be playing in front of so many people. Actually, I would kill to tour with Municipal Waste, I think that would be fun.

OS: When you were writing and recording Firefight, the band was still a six piece (Jo still being on keyboards) but there isn’t much keyboard on the album—what’s the story here?

PZ: Actually the record was pretty much all done after Jo left. After the Hypocrisy tour we scrapped everything we had been working on and started from scratch. There’s pretty much a full Blackguard record recorded that will never see the light of day.

OS: It’s quite clear by the band’s style that the primary roots of your bands are in power metal and folk metal, but what bands would you say had the biggest influence on you as a band?

PZ: Yeesh, I don’t know. I suppose there’s a lot of bands that have “made up the landscape” of the band so to speak. I suppose you can throw in anything from Nightwish, to Rhapsody of Fire, to Megadeth, to Ensiferum…and hell probably a few more in between.

Firefight comes out March 29th via Victory Records, and is probably the band’s heaviest and most straight-forward album to date. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of any of the following bands: Ensiferum, Children of Bodom, Norther, Equilibrium, Nevermore, Kalmah, Wintersun, Dragonforce, etc.

METAL MONDAY: THE STORY OF WINTERSUN’S TIME

Early in 2004, Jari Mäenpää (of Ensiferum fame) had his side project, Wintersun, well in the works. Wintersun finally came to fruition with their debut album on September 13, 2004. But, the release of the self-titled Wintersun forced Jari to choose between the two bands, with Wintersun ultimately becoming the priority. It was a wise decision given the album’s critical acclaim. Wintersun is considered to be one of the greatest metal albums ever, sitting at Number 15 on MetalStorm’s Top 100 albums (highest rated among users of the site). So, where does a band go from there? Well, if you’re Wintersun, you don’t really go anywhere. The last few years has been a roller coaster ride for the band and its fans, with news of more recordings and tours, followed by news of mishaps, canceled tour dates and pushed back release dates.

Cliché power metal band collage

Cliché power metal band collage

Fans first got word about Wintersun’s second album, Time, on September 29, 2005. The band booked studio time to begin recording in May of 2006. All was going well and smooth until October of 2006 when news of the band’s exit from their fall tour broke. Though no details were released, fans were also told that the recording of Time was going to be delayed. Six months went by without any updates on the now much-hyped album release, then came the news that it would not be released in 2007. Now, some people may not know this, but it is not commonplace for a band to begin recording an album and not release it within a year and a half (unless, of course, Axl Rose is in your band). So what could possibly be the excuse for Wintersun’s delay? In Jari’s own words, “I’ve set the bar really high on this album, but my equipment isn’t even close what I need to work faster.”

Cover for Wintersun's (eventual) album, Time

Cover for Wintersun's (eventual) album, Time

This sounds like a joke, right? Jari really ought to to man-up and play with the gear available. If the equipment was good enough to make one of the best metal albums ever, why the sudden need for gear upgrades? Even more ridiculous, Jari went on to say that he was not sure the material he had would even fit on a standard audio CD, since he had written more than 80 minutes of material. The technological problems reported by Jari most likely spawned from having more than 200 audio tracks per song in some cases (for those unfamiliar with recording and production, this is a staggeringly absurd number of tracks). That many tracks per song = overkill.

Jari Mäenpää, organizer of Wintersun

Jari Mäenpää, organizer of Wintersun

More than a year later, there was finally some good news in the Wintersun camp. Nuclear Blast (their label) stepped in and helped them get the necessary gear and equipment to finish the album. But that effort was in vain, since Time was not released. Another year went by before the next Wintersun update, and what a surprise, more bad news! On February 27, 2009, the most recent update of the Time endeavor, Jari lists the following roadblocks for releasing the album: personal issues, writers block, technological problems. Even worse than the announcement giving out false hope with yet another release date, was the news that all Wintersun shows are canceled until Time is released.

At this point, the whole scenario could very well could be a joke. I do not like to count my chickens before they hatch, but this smells an awful lot like the Chinese Democracy fiasco. At some point, someone in the band needs to say, “Hey, maybe we should release the album as we have it now, and focus on our third album.” If Wintersun keeps delaying the album release, they will have missed the opportunity to capitalize on their 2004 success as well as put themselves in the unfortunate position of building expectations so high that album can’t possibly deliver. The biggest question now, even bigger than when will the album be released, is the question of will the album ever be released? The band should seriously consider either releasing the album in the very near future or just hanging it up, happy with the success of Wintersun.

If you wish to check out Wintersun’s never ending news updates, check out their home page. They even have a couple songs there for free download, check them out below:

Wintersun Medley 1, “the Fast, agressive, technical and melodic s***” has parts of “Winter Madness,” “Beyond the Dark Sun” and “Battle Against Time”

Wintersun Medley 2, the “Slower, majestic and epic s***” — has parts from “Sadness and Hate”, “Sleeping Stars” and “Death and the Healing”

 


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